Here in the northeast, summer means it’s time to keep ticks on your radar. Deer ticks may be infected with a bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and spread it to humans and animals through their bite. Most people who are bitten by ticks do not get Lyme disease, but incidence of Lyme is rising. In 2016, the state recorded 1,769 cases of Lyme disease in Maine, up from 1,395 in 2014 – and experts suspect many cases go unreported.
- Take precautions when you go outside. Before you enter wooded or grassy areas, apply bug repellent with 10% DEET or Picaridin and wear light-colored long pants, long-sleeves and a hat.
- Do a thorough check when you come in. After your outing, thoroughly check your body and clothing for ticks as soon as possible. Be sure to check your scalp, armpit, and groin areas, as well as pets, which can carry ticks inside.
- Remove ticks immediately. Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with even pressure. Clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water. Most infected ticks do not spread the disease until they have been attached for at least 36 hours.
- If you get a round, red rash at the site of the bite or flu-like symptoms within several weeks of a tick bite, see your doctor immediately and tell him or her you’ve been bitten by a tick. Deer ticks can be very small and hard to find. Even if you have not found a tick on your body, if you develop this rash and/or other symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.
If Lyme disease is suspected, doctors typically prescribe an antibiotic, which normally cures the disease, if treated in the early stages. Left untreated, Lyme can spread to joints, heart and nervous system.
To learn more about Lyme disease, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.